Archive for April, 2010

Would my kids know Jesus from knowing me?

April 28, 2010

Would they? I don’t know. That’s my aim, however.

If my family were somehow shown the essence of Jesus, as he was incarnated, (I mean as he was in human form, not as the majestic being of infinite glory ascended and seated at the right hand of God the Father) would they be able to say, “Yeah, I’ve seen that before. That’s kinda like my Dad/Husband.” Or if God were to grant my prayer that they might “know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge”, would they be able to say, “I already know a little bit of that kind of love.”

Lord, have mercy. May it be so.

The following is a post from Anne Voskamp, at “A Holy Experience” (another of my favorite blogs) that looks at this question.


How The Kids & The Neighbor-Next-Door Might Really Become Christians?

I’m brushing my teeth, flecks of white spraying the sunny mirror, confetti celebrating new morning, when she crawls up on the toilet, leans into the mirror to find my reflection and ask me straight up, “How do you become a Christian?”

I’m Crest-foaming.

Which is slightly less than conducive for a theological treatise.

I rinse, wash the pearly whites clean, swish again, decide the best way to answer the curl girl’s question might be exactly the Jesus answered questions.

With another question.

Aren’t the answers that strike the deepest the ones our own unlikely lips discover, pull out of thin air?

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“Shalom,” I tap the toothbrush dry on the side of the sink, porcelain knocking at today. I still haven’t found my glasses amidst the teetering stack of books on my bedside stand so I have to peer into her face, her one shake of seven freckles peppering her nose. “You tell me, Shalom… How do you become a Christian?”

I want to think I’ve fulfilled my parental calling, that she knows this one and this is a test more of my own mothering than of her four-year-old mind. But nose to that sun-kissed nose, I’ve got to concede: “Do I even know?”

What is it to become a Christian? Aren’t I still, even now, always, becoming Who I really am? Whose I really am?

What I used to think of as a four-line prayer on the back of a Billy Graham tract I now see as oceanic, cosmic, a decision made with every lugging up of the lungs for breath and it takes a whole life to labor into rebirth.

Lashes dipped gold, she rolls her sapphire eyes and grins sheepish, her head tilted shy. Has she got it? Yes? I smile, tap the end of her button nose, a vending machine tap of the universe for the right answer and maybe the Child can show me the way into the Kingdom?

So how do you become a Christian?” I set my toothbrush in its cup and turn to her and she looks clear into my canyon depths and before she opens her mouth I feel exposed.

“I know…. ” she touches my cheek in morning light mottled.

I get it from you.”

Oh.

I’m not ready for that.

I reel, pull away, glance me in the mirror and I don’t want to see, turn, fold a towel up just straight, breathe through the burn.

She’s got her theology all wrong. And all right.

She’s getting her Jesus from me.

Is that what we’re all doing here? Passing out the crumbs of our Jesus, the Bread of life we’ve been given, to the beggar starving sunken beside us?

And is that why there are fewer and fewer of genuine disciples?Because we who have Bread are indifferent hoarders, letting the masses die? Or because we’re going around passing out cardboard, pseudo-Life, because the ugly truth is that we’ve never tasted of the Real Christ ourselves?

He said those Easter People would receive power when the Holy Spirit came, that we’d be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the ends of the table, the ends of the couch, the ends of the street. The ends of the earth. Witnesses who hand out the Real Story. With their whole body.

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And I’ve got to ask and I’m the one who has to find my own answers:

What Christ am I witnessing and what Christ do I read of, and where do I see God in my life and Who do I really eat of every Sunday? And is this body of bones wrapped in bluing thin flesh a faithful witness at all to the Truth or do my words twist the Gospel, my hands and my tongue lying outright about Christ, the Messiah?

Doesn’t anyone take the witness stand for the God who laid it all down? Have we not seen? Heard? Touched? Why shrink away? Why lie about it?

I don’t know…. I don’t claim to know.

I just know that the Child’s startling claim that she’s getting her Christianity from me brings me to my knees. It’d better keep me there.

And I know that I’d better be handing out the real Bread — not something that will make her, anyone, soul sick. And maybe the answer is that, whether we realize it or not, every moment is our testimony before a world who has Christ on trial.

When I tenderly gather her up into the lap there on the edge of the tub, I explain what it means, how to break the amniotic waters of new life, or what little I know of the mysteries of being born again, and I feel so small.

She feels along the story for days.

I pray my hands are a better witness than my words.

She prays a sinner prayer on a Tuesday, and we who conceived her bones are bent with her, midwives for the second birthing. I pull her close, kiss her forehead fresh with heaven’s scent and I whisper into curls, “The angels have seen this, Shalom, the angels bear witness. The angels have a party today.”

On her new day one, we make angel cookies, her and I, of the wheat kernels fallen to the ground, gathered and ground fine, angel cookies for the angel party, for the lost sheep found, celebration for the long delivery begun.

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And I bear witness to her splitting smile, the Christ Alive and bits of the heavens fallen quiet across the greening earth, the blue periwinkles, the dark violets, the dandelion suns.

As surely as day follows night…

April 22, 2010

Whenever you see a sentence on a christian blog begin with the words, “I love [insert name] and have greatly benefitted from their ministry” you can bet next months rent that it will immediately be followed by the word “but” and a “loving” correction of some error that is presumably so important that all teh whole internets must be alerted to it before someone is led down this particular theological slippery slope to ruin.

Just something I’ve noticed.

Ray Ortlund

April 20, 2010

One of my absolute favorite blogs to read is “Christ Is Deeper Still” by Ray Ortlund. Great quotes, great thoughts, usually a couple of posts a day, all of them deep and meaty. This one from today is a prime example;

Acceptable Worship

“When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.”  Isaiah 1:15

The worship God rejects here is not idolatrous worship.  It is his own biblical worship, performed by the people with elaborate, even sacrificial, abundance.  But God says he hates it.  Why?  Their hands are full of blood.  Human blood.

The acceptability of our vertical worship is inseparable from the humaneness of our horizontal relationships.

Let us love one another.  It can make all the difference in our worship of God.

Michael Spencer, 1956-2010

April 10, 2010

Michael Spencer died this past Monday, the day after Easter. He leaves behind a loving family, a school full of students and staff, a book to be published this fall (buy it), a bar full of malcontents and heretics (jn) known as the Boar’s Head Tavern and a vast number of readers/friends who know him as the iMonk, or TommyMertonHead.

It’s strange to grieve and mourn someone I’ve never met, but that’s what’s happened this last week. Michael wrote with such transparency that I feel like knew him well without ever even talking to him.

In his last post here’s what he had to say about apologetics,

The ultimate apologetic is to a dying man.

That is what all those “Where is God?” statements in the Psalms are all about. They are, at least partially, invitations to Christians to speak up for the dying.

All the affirmations to God as creator and designer are fine, but it is as the God of the dying that the Christian has a testimony to give that absolutely no one else can give.

We need to remember that each day dying people are waiting for the word of death and RESURRECTION.

The are a lot of different kinds of Good News, but there is little good news in “My argument scored more points than you argument.” But the news that “Christ is risen!” really is Good News for one kind of person: The person who is dying.

If Christianity is not a dying word to dying men, it is not the message of the Bible that gives hope now.

What is your apologetic? Make it the full and complete announcement of the Life Giving news about Jesus.

His bar mate at the BHT, Fearsome Tycoon, wrote this reflection,

Richard Dawkins thinks he really has Christianity licked. As far as he’s concerned, he’s proven that there’s a logical, completely materialistic explanation for why there’s a universe, why there’s a race of men, and why this peculiar species has unique traits such as its moral compass, even its belief in a deity. Thus, there is no reason to believe in God, no reason to be a Christian, and moreover, anyone who does–or tolerates those who do–is simply an idiot. On a similar note, Greg Epstein has sufficiently proven to himself that people can and will be good without God. Leaving aside the irony that he tends to define “good” the way a Christian would, rather than how Nietzsche or Lenin would, I’ll give him his argument. As far as he’s concerned, he’s proven there’s no need to be religious.

What Michael’s death brings sharply into focus is how wrong these two men are. It’s not that original sin, creation, and providence are insignificant, but they’re not the reasons for being Christian. Disagreements over the things Dawkins and Epstein talk about have led to factions within Christianity, not atheism. That’s because the one place each and every recognizably Christian sect starts from is the belief that Jesus has defeated death. Destroy the resurrection of Jesus, and you destroy Christianity. Even as I grieve over Michael, the Lord sustains my faith through the promise I will see both Michael and the Lord himself some day, each one of us having been raised from the dead.

Even if* Dawkins and Epstein are right, they haven’t made Christianity irrelevant. As long as people die, we will still need the Gospel. The resurrection is too foolish to be easily attacked. A philosophical argument for believing in God as an explanation for the universe or the basis for an orderly society is something that can be debated and tested. Believing that a Jewish man came back from the dead 2000 years ago simply doesn’t submit to that kind of analysis. You can only say, “That’s crazy,” and we can only say, “We know.”

Yet, if Christ is not raised, death wins. Without the resurrection of Jesus, death is a gaping maw of inky blackness that will devour and destroy anything and everything that exists. It’s a relentless attacker that always finds its mark, never rests, never grows weary, and never slows down. If Jesus has not been raised, then it doesn’t matter what you think about anything else; death wins. No devil? Death wins. No hell? Death wins. No sin? Death wins. No judgment? Death wins. A clever explanation for how we got here? Death wins. If Christians are deluded, death wins. It will come for us, it will come for you, it will come for us all, so pity us for our naivete as we all shuffle off into the terrible nothingness of death with you–or perhaps envy us, because we don’t spend our lives in terror.

If the resurrection doesn’t sound like the Gospel, you haven’t really considered how great and powerful death is. An ordinary man might conquer a vice. He may fix a hole in his reasoning. But he will never defeat death. Even if he finds the Fountain of Youth, death will eventually blot out the sun and leave the earth a cold, lifeless shell. Should he escape the solar system and find another star, death will destroy that one, too. It will devour and devour until not a single wisp of usable energy remains in this universe to sustain life.

The easiest way to kill the Gospel in your church is to drive thoughts of death out of our minds. Hurry the old and the frail out the doors of your church, so the youthful and exuberant don’t have to see them. Distract people with self-help lessons and inspirational stories. Wrap people up in the institution, in the programs, and the politics of your version of the faith. Just don’t let them think about death. Don’t let them see the dying. Be sure to do this, and regardless of how “orthodox” your church is on paper, the Gospel will be the only thing that dies in your church. Only face to face with the ugly visage of death do we learn who Jesus is.

When Michael Spencer died, I said was going to be angry with God. He didn’t even get to see his one book, the dream of his life, make it to print. You’d think God would have at least given Michael until late September to live. Would it have hurt so much to let him stick around just a few more months, just to see the book? But when I read the news, even as my heart broke, the Lord said to me, “Don’t you see? This is why I came.”

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.

*This is not the same as saying I agree with Dawkins or Epstein, nor am I “egging on” Dawkins fans. See my earlier post on the Lord’s Supper.